Though I've been reviewing advanced copies of books less often lately, I was intrigued by No Baggage from Running Press.
Quickly after emerging from aThough I've been reviewing advanced copies of books less often lately, I was intrigued by No Baggage from Running Press.
Quickly after emerging from a deep and long depressive period, Bensen signed up for OkCupid and within fifteen minutes of completing her profile, she emailed a cocky professor. Within a few short months, she quit the first substantial job she'd been able to find since moving back in with her parents after college and her depression (which was justified because "The money was decent and I had full control over my schedule. The only catch was that software apps made me grit my teeth with boredom.") in order to travel to Europe with the professor for three weeks. They took only the clothing they were wearing and she had a small bag with her passport and toiletries. They took this photograph of themselves the night before they left with everything they took with them:
It's been too long since I've read Bryson! And Notes from a Small Island is certainly one of my favourites, so when Penguin Random House offered the oIt's been too long since I've read Bryson! And Notes from a Small Island is certainly one of my favourites, so when Penguin Random House offered the opportunity to read this sequel of sorts, I jumped up and down at the chance. Bryson lives in England again, and in this memoir he makes a few visits along the "Bryson Line".
The Road to Little Dribbling is classic Bryson, and I mean that in a glowing way (other readers sometimes complain about what seems like discrimination or at least too much grouchiness in his work). I've said it before (here) about Bryson that he is certainly cutting, disdainful... but he's pretty much that way about almost everyone he meets. Regardless of your race, gender, size, or age, you can't escape Bryson's judgmental gaze. I never really read him as judging on one of those categories quite so much as if you irritate him and he describes you, he'll do so starting with a physical description. He doesn't spare himself, either.
Anyway, the thing about Bryson is that he he very cleverly conveys irritations that likely almost all of us think at some time or another - perhaps some or more than others but we all have behaviours from other people that make us frustrated or angry. Bryson is just excellent and often hilarious at describing his simmering emotions.
Displacement: A Travelogue appears to be the second in a trilogy of graphic memoirs centered around travel by Knisley and while by now she's become anDisplacement: A Travelogue appears to be the second in a trilogy of graphic memoirs centered around travel by Knisley and while by now she's become an auto-buy author for me, it's the third in the series that I just can't wait for!
But since she's probably still inking the third one (you can follow her progress on Instagram), I was happy to receive Displacement. The first on the series was about traveling in Europe after a breakup with her long-term boyfriend John, while hanging out with a new Swedish boyfriend, her newlywed friends, and her mother and her mother's friends. Boyfriend angst, yummy foods, creative adventures, and exciting travel.
So, this is annoying - now I have to add Hemingway to my roster of writers of whom I pretty much want to read everything they've written?
I read him wSo, this is annoying - now I have to add Hemingway to my roster of writers of whom I pretty much want to read everything they've written?
I read him when I was younger - much younger - but now I'm glad I stopped after The Old Man and the Sea because by this book I sense that I'll be better served reading Hemingway with the benefits of age.
I didn't love everything about it, and I'm surprised how much this is supposed to be about Paris, when it's so much more about the writing process and relationships, and lots of name-dropping with a bit - and only a bit, this is Hemingway, even if he was young - of star-struckness (Joyce).
I was briefly angry at the end because of what he wrote about the dissolution of his first marriage. Hemingway, of what little I know about him, is, I think, variably referred to as a sort of man's man or even a misogynist. I know he had four wives, I know he oogled women. His personal life is his own, and surely many men frequently oogle women - it's just become unacceptable to admit it out loud. But, according to the somewhat cryptic rant at the end of this memoir, Hemingway felt he had absolutely no culpability in his ultimate actions - that he was targeted, and tricked, and betrayed. The last person in the world who was responsible for Hemingway's affair was Hemingway himself.
But will I read him again? Yes, because I enjoyed the writing here very much, and he might make me mad again but I'll probably enjoy the journey anyway.
Oh, and, by the way, Hemingway recounts his experience with F. Scott Fitzgerald's penis. His penis. If you want to know why, you'll have to read the book.
It's sad to think that if I weren't headed to Iceland in five weeks from now that this book never would have come across my radar. Even if it had, itIt's sad to think that if I weren't headed to Iceland in five weeks from now that this book never would have come across my radar. Even if it had, it could have been years before I managed to get around to it, and that would certainly have been a loss.
Moss' experience with and exploration of Iceland is just incredibly fascinating. She deftly weaves together her and her family's own intimate experiences, cultural and sociological traits, financial stuff, archeology, history, Icelanders beliefs and fascinations with the Little People, and epicurean and nutritional frustrations. She never allows any of these elements to overshadow the others, and even throws in some simple, beautiful moments of reflection on Iceland's incredible landscapes.
It's not all lovey-dovey, I assure you; her criticisms of Icelandic driving, alarm over the crime rates (and a general lack of seeing it by those outside of Iceland), Icelandic pride and (to foreigners) their disgust over second-hand belongings, and intrigue about the reckless abandon with which Icelanders allow their kids to explore and experience their environment, allow constant surprises and fascinating glimpses into a country that felt more foreign and strange to me with each chapter.
It took me much longer than it normally does to read a book of this size, which is due in part to my own time being spend out hiking in training for my own trip to Iceland, but also in part to the dense (in a good way!) and fascinating writing and observations.
What a fantastic narrative! Very highly recommended. ...more
Despite the size of this book (a smaller hardback just brushing 300 pages) and despite my earnest attempt to devote time to it (as necessitated by reaDespite the size of this book (a smaller hardback just brushing 300 pages) and despite my earnest attempt to devote time to it (as necessitated by reading it for a final project for math class), it seemed to take forever to get through it. And I cheated.
I found this a frustrating narrative. I was enthralled by the personal and professional details regarding Leonardo but skimmed through pages of math far beyond my comprehension. I don't pretend to be anywhere near competent in math but I've discovered in this class that, given time and a good teacher, I can understand concepts pretty well. This book seems to market itself (and is categorized in the library) primarily as biographical, then art, then science. This made me approach it feeling like, sure, there's going to be some math in here and I'm going to have to deal with that but sort of assumed (to my fault) that given the apparent mainstream targeting that it would be at least comprehensible. About a quarter of the way through, despite reading examples multiples times in an attempt to understand them, I began to believe that even my mathematically and scientifically minded friends would have some difficulty following it. This made it more difficult to understand the general concept of the golden ratio and at about page 200, I put the book down, went to Wikipedia, and understood the whole concept better just by reading the first paragraph on that page.
Also, it feels really cobbled together. For the second half, I skimmed through it, looking for the pertinent parts I needed for my project and details about Leonardo, which I always find fascinating. I get the sense that the author is a great artist and a great scientist and probably even a very good writer but the book seemed like he worked on different parts of the whole - concepts and historical aspects linked to both Leonardo and the golden ratio - but then just kind of them threw them together instead of forming a more comprehensive narrative. I found myself reading things towards the end about which I kept thinking, "Well, why didn't he explain that earlier?"
I think dumbed down a bit for a more general audience and with a better editor for the general map of the book, this book would have found a wider audience. If I had picked it up for the Leonardo aspect alone as pleasure reading and not for primarily a school project, I would have abandoned it far earlier. As it was, I still couldn't bring myself to read the whole second half. I'm glad the book was written; I love reading books that combine two of my pleasures - art and science - it just feels like it could have been better executed. ...more
It seems blasphemous to give a book which has been personally autographed by the author three stars instead of five. Four stars seemed quite possibleIt seems blasphemous to give a book which has been personally autographed by the author three stars instead of five. Four stars seemed quite possible but considering that I skimmed the last couple of chapters, I'm settling on three.
I did have some of the same complaints about this book as other reviewers such as Mayes and her husband always staying in expensive places and even moving when the places did not meet their high expectations. However, when I thought about it I realized that I have little room to criticize. If I had the kind of money they seem to have, I would stay in the nicer places when possible and I would definitely eat the gourmet meals.
Some people seem critical of Mayes because she has the money to simply travel but I can find no fault in this. We all have certain priorities in life. I cannot count the times that I have chosen to spend whatever money I can scrape together - after sacrifices in other areas of life - on a trip only to have a friend/relative/neighbor snidely say, "Wow, wish I could afford to travel like you", as they climb into their new SUV, drive past their freshly remodeled home, and on to their higher paying jobs. I certainly don't fault them for their choices in life but some people seem to see traveling as a luxury while others see it as a necessity. I haven't been able to travel for a few years now but I still see it as a vital part of life which I hope to return to some day.
The writing is beautiful, though often a bit too bogged down in detail so that even though I enjoyed her descriptions, I still started skimming towards the end.
So why do I (somewhat reluctantly) give A Year in the World only three stars? Because it's not really a year and it's not really in the world. Mayes gathered a number of travel experiences together to make up the collection but didn't really make all the journeys consecutively within a year. And I pictured in the world as truly a larger variety of places scattered throughout the world, not centered in the Mediterranean and mostly throughout western Europe (a bit of the UK is touched upon). She even presents separate "chapters" as different trips which are actually to the same locations previously visited in earlier chapters.
Most of all, and what dropped it a whole star for me, was when Mayes recounted conversations with her husband Ed that would (reportedly) sound like, "...what explains the rise in popularity of flamenco, here and everywhere?" and Ed would reply, "A yearning. This art touches a yearning we have. The unspoken longings way inside the heart." Okay, sure, she loves her husband and wants to include him in the book. I don't have any issue with this. And sure, couples talk philosophically with one another but according to the book they talk like this all the time, in every conversation. And skeptical me, I presume that they either do not really talk like this all of the time which makes it seem as though she's trying to seem pretentious or they really do talk like this all the time and really are pretentious. In either case, if I were eavesdropping in a tourist line behind them, I would be rolling my eyes in short order. ...more
The quote on the cover of this book is by New York magazine and says, "The kind of book Steinbeck might have written if he'd traveled with David LetteThe quote on the cover of this book is by New York magazine and says, "The kind of book Steinbeck might have written if he'd traveled with David Letterman instead of Charlie the Poodle."
Thus proving my theory that any and every situation can be improved by the presence of a dog.
As others have mentioned, Bryson tends to be fairly degrading towards minorities in this book, depending on the situation. HOWEVER, throughout this book, Bryson is degrading towards everything... all people, white, black, male, female, fat, thin, child, adult. So it's a bit fanatical to flat out say that he is racist - he just doesn't like anyone (at least in this book). All places, too, whether it be in a city or suburbs or countryside. I've been to most of the places he talks about and was really surprised to read him talking about, for example, how a particular stretch of highway was boring and/or ugly. I remember some of these areas as amazingly beautiful. Sure, he wrote the book twenty years ago but many of these areas are old wood forests and deserts that would have been the same twenty years ago, if not more beautiful because now there's more of a chance that places are being overpopulated and modernized.
Bryson is always amusing and witty and this balances the book out a bit but not enough to make me recommend it to anyone. ...more